PARRISH ALFORD: Closed workouts obscure outlook

PARRISH ALFORD

PARRISH ALFORD

OXFORD

There was work taking place at Ole Miss on Monday, grinding as they say, and everything else that goes along with getting ready for an Aug. 28 opener against Boise State. There was just nobody from outside the program to see it.

Practice was closed.

There are some advantages to this, like the ability to work on other assignments, most of them football, that don’t go away because camp has begun.

However, the question we’re most often asked these days – How are they looking? – is getting harder and harder to answer as schools restrict practice access.

Policies vary at different schools, but they’re trending toward less viewing time.

Once upon a time coaches didn’t care, or didn’t care much, if beat writers hung around and watched. It was usually just a few who would attend. The Internet blossomed, and things have changed. Demand has increased, but access has dwindled.

Contingents of local media have grown with the coming of different websites. Where it was once a coach and a few people, now it might be seven or eight or more. That’s here in Mississippi. Multiply that figure for schools with larger fan bases.

Those changing dynamics can affect the comfort level for coaches and players in the interview process, especially as the print guys are now holding up cameras and trying to acquire video for their website work.

Fans can still find daily coverage, but much of it will come from the schools themselves on their websites and emailed news releases. This takes us back to the “how are they looking” question. What should be emphasized more in the coverage, a quarterback’s completion percentage for the entire workout or his touchdown pass at the end of it?

There is the question of depth charts, too. Coaches don’t like to publicize who is where relative to first team, second team and such.

Goals for university media relations staffs and the media covering the teams are not the same.

What needs to be considered closely is players’ constant exposure to media and interviews. It’s not their responsibility to meet market demand for coverage. They can get worn out with questions, and when that happens answers start to sound the same.

Schools usually do a good job of protecting their players, and daily coverage doesn’t have to require daily contact with individuals.

It does, however, need daily observation.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Read his blog at InsideOleMissSports.com.